Sugar Matters
January 20, 2015
What NOT to say to a parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes

For some reason people like to say things; they feel they NEED to SAY something and don’t stop to think about how the person hearing it may feel. I have heard some interesting statements relayed to me by my patients who have Type 1 diabetes or have children with Type 1. The majority of these statements are based on ignorance about the facts known regarding Type 1 diabetes, so I encourage you to responsibly learn more about the disease before you start making comments to someone affected by it.{{more}}

Here are possibly some of the most insensitive/useless/judgmental comments I have heard said to parents:

1) “You sure it is diabetes?” — Type 1 diabetes is not a diagnosis easily mistaken in a child, and I assure you that the parents have already asked this question a thousand times more than you are asking. Diabetes is diagnosed based on blood sugar levels, and is often based on repeated testing, not one random test. So, yes, unless the parent is making it up (for some strange reason), this is the diagnosis.

2)”Maybe you didn’t breastfeed long enough/fed formula too early.” —Seriously, you want to put blame on the mother/parent for CAUSING Type 1 diabetes by choice of feeding pattern? Not only is this incorrect (completely), but very insensitive. Please hear this out not: there is NOTHING a parent does to cause Type 1 diabetes in a child, nothing.

3)”I could never give injections to my child” or “I could never prick my child’s finger.” — What, you think those parents enjoy doing this? They do this to keep their children healthy and many go through their own struggles in overcoming concerns with it, so your tossing out that sentence is not helping one bit. We never know how we will respond to a situation until we ourselves are in it, and for parents loving their children, once they understand that these are critically necessary steps to keeping their child healthy, they do them. Many parents would literally throw themselves under a bus to save their child’s life, and injections and pricking fingers are both much easier than doing that, right?

4)”Have you tried this herb?” — Again, this shows lack of understanding about Type 1 diabetes on your part. There is no herb that cures Type 1 diabetes, none.

5)” I would never tell anybody if my child had it.” —This is wrong on so many accounts, I can’t even begin to say. You are implying the parent should somehow be ASHAMED of their child having this disease, something they had no control over, and something that has no reflection on the parent or the child as a person. Type 1 does not strike only certain types of people; it affects anyone and every one of all backgrounds, lifestyles, nations etc. Sharing personal family health information is something a family will decide on their own, no matter what the situation/disease process. Your job is to listen and be supportive, not throw stones.

6)”Well maybe he/she will outgrow it.” — Again, showing lack of understanding about Type 1, but at least not being judgmental this time. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong illness that you do not “grow out of” at any time. There may be what we call “honeymoon periods” at the very beginning, but the disease stays for life, unless a pancreas transplant cures the patient.

7)”My aunt/neighbour/ brother has diabetes too and they do such-and-such.” — Unless your relation has Type 1 diabetes, you cannot compare the two situations. Type 2 diabetes, which is the one more often found in adults, is managed very differently than Type 1 diabetes in children. Yes, they may both be treated with insulin and diet is important for both, but they are not the same disease; so your comments, while well meaning, are not likely to be helpful. There are many other comments or questions I have heard over time that really make me shake my head in wonder that people think so little about what they say. So, the rule I suggest you follow is this: if you don’t know much about Type 1 diabetes, don’t say anything aside from this: “let me know if I can help in any way” and offer your best wishes.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD

Medical Director Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227